The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Publication Order, #1)

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Rating: ★★★★★

I vividly remember going to see the Disney film adaptation and falling in love with the world of Narnia and Aslan. I was supposed to read this novel in the 5th grade but due to Hurricane Katrina and Wilma I did not attend school for almost a month making it impossible for my class to devour the novel and see the film adaptation. Over the years I have always wanted to invest my time in the series and started reading the chronological order with The Magician’s Nephew which I thoroughly enjoyed but the desire faded until now thanks to the PBS: The Great American Read. I did my research and decided that I should follow the publication order.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobedeals with the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) who have evacuated from London during World War II to escape from the Blitz. They are sent to live with an old professor and one day Lucy discovers an old wardrobe in one of the rooms and enters it. What she does not realize that the wardrobe is magical and now has transported her to the magical land of Narnia. She walks to a lamppost and befriends a faun named Mr. Tumnus who invites her to tea and with a change of heart saves her. He was supposed to trap Lucy and give her to the White Witch because Lucy is a human being who fulfills the Narnia prophecy.

Narnia has been living in harsh winter for years because the White Witch has claimed that she is the true ruler of Narnia and only the two sons of Adam and the two daughters of Eve can claim the throne and put an end for the White Witch destruction and Lucy safely returns to the Wardrobe to tell her siblings about all this revelation and they refuse to believe her. Time passes by and during a game of hide-and-seek Lucy enters the wardrobe again but this time around Edmund follows her and ends up in Narnia as well. He is in complete shock and is trying to find Lucy instead he meet the White Witch. She uses her magic to employ Edmund as a spy for her and orders him to recruit all his siblings and take them to her ice castle. Edmund is such f%$king spoiled brat and for me personally he is not a redeemable character at all especially how he deceives everyone and is a bit cruel.

Finally what makes everyone believe Lucy is when the housekeeper, Mrs. Macready is giving a tour of the house to visitors and they are trying to hide from her so they enter the wardrobe and all the Pevensie children are together at last in Narnia. They learned that Edmund had lied to Lucy and gives Lucy the permission to lead the way and decides to check up on Mr. Tumnus who unfortunately is captured by the White Witch. What is also mysterious is a bird guides the children to a talking beaver named Mr. Beaver who is messenger sent by Tumnus to protect Lucy and send the children to meet the powerful and mystical lion named Aslan. When Mr. Beaver reveals the details about what Aslan has in stored for everyone, Edmund escapes and heads to the White Witch castle where he becomes a prisoner to her cruelty. The only way to rescue him is meeting up with Aslan.

Out of all my favorite characters I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Aslan. A lion is one of the majestic and beautiful animals I have ever seen and the fact that he is a metaphor for Jesus Christ is both a powerful image and interesting concept. His conversations with the Pevensie children showcase major advice for them and he is the glue that helps put everything together. The children have weapons thanks to St. Nick and he is able to rescue Edmund. Except that the price of saving Edmund meant sacrificing himself at the stone table by the hand of the witch. Definitely got the whole Jesus crucifixion imagery and I still found myself heartbroken over it but knew like Jesus that he would be resurrected someway or somehow.

For being a novel that was written over half a century ago it still holds up today especially Lewis precision to writing and getting to the core of the story. I was never bored when reading this novel and I believe it is a great series for children and adults to discover. C. S. Lewis is not a perfect individual and there are some major flaws that I had issues with but overall it can be a teachable moment for children. I hated how Lewis was adamant in his writing to showcase his sexist views that women do not have a place in the battlefield. Lucy weapon is a small dagger and huge vial of medicine and Susan gets a bow and arrow. They never use any of their weapons except for the vial because they were too busy weeping for Aslan. I dislike how they relied on Peter to make all the decisions and dictate the roles for his siblings.

Another moment that I found annoying was how the children had forgotten about their life before Narnia as if it never existed and when they discover the lamppost again they cannot figure out why it strikes a sense of familiarity. The illustrations are fantastic and at times definitely helped providing me a visual when it comes to the creatures of Narnia and having it in color makes a huge difference. I cannot stress enough for everyone who reads The Chronicles of Narnia to pick up the Full-Color Collector’s Edition. Overall I hope the rest of the series lives up to this enchanting first novel and I cannot wait to discover more about Narnia and the Pevensie children in Prince Caspian.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings

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Rating: ★★★★★

Shel Silverstein can do no wrong for me. I absolutely worship The Giving Tree as one of greatest children’s picture books of all-time. If I have already read a few now of his works what is there to hate about a book about poetry? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I think he is brilliant at introducing poetry to kids and even though I am currently 23 years old as I am writing this review found myself cracking up countless times throughout this book of poetry.

I believe what makes Shel Silverstein unique is that he is able to tap into the innocence that makes up a child’s wonder and explore the limitless boundaries of the imagination. Every poem that is showcased in this collection illustrates that Mr. Silverstein had fun writing these poems and made them look effortless. That takes major writing craft to make a poem look simple and I applaud him for all his hard work. One of my favorite poems is called:

The Land of Happy

Have you been to The Land of Happy,
Where everyone’s happy all day,
Where they joke and they sing
Of the happiest things,
And everything’s jolly and gay?
There’s laughter and smiles galore.
I have been to The Land of Happy–
What a bore!

If you haven’t read this book since you were a child I highly recommend reading it again for the nostalgia and see whether the poetry holds up to the same standards as when you first read it. I think it is always a beautiful thing to discover your inner child and it is also important to learn to laugh and be stress-free while reading especially how each day feels like the world is going to end. The illustrations or rather Silverstein’s drawings help bring the poem to life and help keep the imagination flowing for readers. If you have kids and they have never read it then it is the perfect time for you to read to them and discover the beauty that is poetry.

Where the Wild Things Are

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Rating: ★★★★

I am reading one of my favorite children’s picture book from my childhood again because it was featured in Amazon’s 100 Books To Read In A Lifetime and I am trying to get myself back into a consistent reading habit. Amazon editors curated this life to incorporate books from all walks of life and I remember vividly reading this as a child. I think what made me enjoy and loved this book was the illustrations.

Maurice Sendak has the powerful skills of being a great storyteller with his illustrations and making these unique monsters come to life. I have never seen these types of monsters as a kid and while it may be frightening for some children I remember picturing these monsters as warm and fuzzy. This has always been a perfect score for me and yet this time around the magic has worn off a bit for me and to be honest the actual writing of the story did not blow me away. I never liked to read as a child and odds are I used my own imagination when seeing the illustrations and daydreaming what would I do if I was the King of the Wild Things.

The plot is quite simple for those who may never had read it. Max is the main protagonist of the story who throws a temper tantrum one night during dinner and is sent to his room. He’s angry and furious and somehow the room mysteriously turns into a jungle. He escapes into the wild and travels in this uncharted land and discovers an island that is inhabited by these evil beast known as the “Wild Things”. They want to devour Max for supper and yet he is able to imitating them and convince them that he is actually scarier than them. They accept him as their own and he gets to explore life as a wild thing. Unfortunately during the whole festivities, he realizes that he misses the feeling of being surrounded by loved ones and tries to find his way back home.

The story is beautiful and a unique way of talking about anger issues but I am actually shocked that the writing style was meh for me. I hope whenever I read this children’s picture book again soon that I do not have experience these similar issues and raise it back up to 5 stars again. Overall I believe it is a great picture book to read to your children and if you by any chance have never read it then stop with what you are doing and pick up a copy. I cannot rave enough about Maurice Sendak illustrations and use of color. It is by all definition a true and beautiful classic to have encountered in your lifetime.

Babies

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Rating: ★★★★★

I highly recommend everyone to read this children’s picture book because it is absolutely beautiful to read about babies and the positive and innocence energy to give off to people. Keith Haring believes babies are one of the positive images you can capture to the human being eyes and it reflects tremendously in his art. I remember the paintings of pregnant women, babies, and it is a repetitive theme in his artwork. His message about babies is spot on and I think people need to realize that hatred is not born but created by how our parents raised us, the culture we surround ourselves in, and the environment around us.

Babies are not born with evil or hatred in their hearts because they are innocent creatures whose sole focus is to be loved, cuddled, and have someone attend to their daily needs. We are the ones that nurture them and must make it our daily mission to teach them that they should love everyone who comes in all shapes and sizes and not judge them because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or whether they are rich or poor. For being a children’s book there are powerful images shown throughout and I LOVEthis book and must have my own copy!

Dogs

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Rating: ★★★★

Keith Haring is one of the most famous artist of the twentieth century in the same standing as Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and countless others. One reason why I believe Keith Haring stands out is because without ever seeing his face everyone at some point has seen his artwork permeating our pop culture world and I believe his message of love, hope, positivity, and change has been effective. It saddens me that he died from complications of AIDS without ever seeing the magnitude of his art and how he’s inspired future generations.

The estate of Keith Haring got snippets of his journal and together with his artwork created this book about dogs. For the most part his art alone would be an automatic 5 stars material but the actual writing was way off. What he writes about dogs is vague and more an observation than writing as to why he loves Dogs and their faithful companionship. Certain sentences did not create a flow in the narrative and that is the sole reason why it gets 4 stars. It is still a beautiful book to pick up especially for anyone who loves dogs and want to see how Keith Haring captures them in his art. I thoroughly enjoyed it that aspect. Great for kids to pick and discover art and feel like they are reading a children’s picture book.

Charlotte’s Web

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Rating: ★★★★★

I remember vividly back in 3rd Grade how my Language Arts teacher had decided that we would be reading this novel for school and knowing myself I only read maybe the first few pages and then skim the rest of the text. I hated to read back in elementary school for the simple fact that it was forced down our throats and I am still adamant against forcing kids to read or having to read a book only then to take a test to see whether they actually truly read the book. After we had read the book, we saw the classic animated film and life goes on. Then a couple of years back I rented from the library the live-action adaptation version with Dakota Fanning and Julia Roberts and truly cherished this story even though I knew perfectly well the ending of Charlotte’s Web. Now you must be asking why am I reading it again after all these years?

Plain and simple. PBS. Meredith Vieira is hosting this miniseries called The Great American Read on PBS where American viewers voted 100 Novels that everyone should read and week-by-week they countdown as to what novel gets the #1 spot. The idea is to make Americans read again and tackle on novels that probably they would never read or familiarize themselves with books from all aspects of their life. Theres tons of books I haven’t read since I was a child and I am excited to participate and engage myself with books. I highly recommend everyone to check it out and if you want more information click here.

Charlotte’s Web is an American beauty of a classic and I think it is one of the most heart-touching novels to read to kids and help them learn and discover that which is the beauty of life, friendship, and animals. We are introduced to the Arable family particularly Mr. Arable who is tending to his pigs who just have given birth to piglets now that it is spring time. One of the piglets stands out from the rest as he is too small and in Mr. Arable defected. His daughter, Fern, has faith in the piglet and begs her father not to kill it. The humanity and the innocence that pours out of Fern astonishes Mr. Arable and he decides to make Fern the new owner of the piglet which she names Wilbur.

As time moves on and Wilbur is growing up, it gets difficult to properly manage the pig so Fern is forced to sell the pig to her uncle, Homer Zuckerman, and the sole benefit about this transaction is he owns a farm so Wilbur will always have a place to roam about, plenty of food, and the Zuckerman’s live nearby so Fern can always visit Wilbur. At first Wilbur adjusts nicely to the new farm but overtime he becomes depress because none of the barn animals want to be his friend and he truly does not have much room to explore and have adventures especially since Fern cannot always be with him all the time. One day when he has a major episode, a grey barn spider by the name of Charlotte decides to engage with Wilbur and instantly they become friends.

As the seasons progresses we get to Charlotte’s influence on Wilbur as he starts to stick up for himself and actually believe that he is a pig worth of love and friendship. Rumors start spreading among the animals that come Christmas time Wilbur will be slaughtered by the Zuckermans and it becomes Charlotte’s main duty to make sure that never happens. At what cost does it take to make that a reality is the true definition of friendship and what we sacrifice to accomplish the great good. I was expecting to cry when rereading this and while some tears did come out in the end it was more out of nostalgia. This is a marvelous children’s book and I cannot praise it enough for people to read.

Charlotte was and still is my favorite character and in many ways she is the protagonist of the story. She helps educate Wilbur that the outside appearance of others is not essential compare to their personality. When they first start getting to know each other, Wilbur judges Charlotte because she kills flies and suck their blood for food and by the time we reach the end we see that Wilbur loves Charlotte because she was truly his friend and he’s eternally grateful for all the hard-work and sacrifices she made to protect him.

One question that bugged me throughout the story is Fern’s role and her laziness to help Wilbur. Fern is able to understand the animals as though she is Eliza Thornberry without the ability to talk to animals in their language. So for a huge chunk of the novel she knows that Wilbur is going to be Christmas dinner and she does nothing to stop it. She’s scared as to what will happen to him and she hopes that Charlotte is successful in her plan. Um how about you lend a hand and help out too because doing nothing and watching all this happen means you aren’t really a good friend. That is the only thing that bugged me about the book.

E.B. White is a genius in regards to picking difficult topics to discuss such as death and be able to not make children be scared about it. Charlotte’s goal of trying to save Wilbur makes the audience focus as to how is she going to accomplish this and makes it understandable that all living things on this planet has an expiration date and what we do with our time during our lifespan is what determines whether we lived a full-life or accomplished nothing. To create such a simplistic story and it all revolves around a pig astounds me how powerful E.B. White imagination is and the power of a great storyteller.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

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Rating: ★★★★

I discover this picture book through an article about this particular Librarian and her recommendations for those who want to read a book. She recommended that every one of all ages should read this book and I believe her! This book is truly meant for children and if you are able to tap into your inner child then you can learn to appreciate this short and sweet story. The title of the book is self-explanatory and I won’t reveal much but lets just say it could be the potential origin story as to how this whole game started.

The illustrations of this book is on fire and it captivated my attention and I could just imagine how fascinated little kids who feel reading this story and if I had to rate this book solely on the illustrations it would receive the highest marks possible. Normally this would be a guaranteed 5 stars for me but I felt this story could have developed into greater storyline instead of the actual outcome. I believe since I am an adult reading this book the predictability ruined the whole experience but in the end I have no quarrels about this cute story.

I highly recommend this book for parents who want a new book to read to their children and since the story takes place during the summer its easier for children to relate to the story and explore some fun outside of the house with Rock, Paper, Scissors! Drew Daywalt was brilliant at bringing this concept that naturally gets passed from generation to generation and added a new flare to an iconic game.